Can I go to California?”

When my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter asked me this question, my initial response was, “There is no way you are going to California, especially without me.”

And then I saw the cost of the trip, which only solidified my sentiment. 

The public school she attends teamed up with a travel tour company to offer a week-long educational trip to California for students who applied. The trip is not considered a school trip since it will be during April vacation, but teachers will be participating along with the travel guides from the tour company. 

“Didn’t you go on a similar trip when you were her age?” My husband, the voice of reason, pointed out the fact that I did indeed travel to the west coast at the age of 14, except instead of a week, I traveled for three weeks. I went with a private “teen tour” company over the summer.

I loved my teen tour experience. It enabled me to see national parks and historical sites that I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise, which is why I changed my mind and I’m allowing her to go.

What is a teen tour?

A teen tour is when a group of teens travels with adult leaders to specific locations. These tours are usually private companies but sometimes pair up with public schools. Some tours are also run through religious organizations. The trips can be domestic or international and can be community service-based or educational. The length of time can vary from one week to one month or longer. The group stays at campgrounds or hotels, traveling by coach bus.

Types of Teen Tours

Private: Most of the teen tour companies are privately owned. Like a camp, the company hires staff counselors who will travel and be responsible for the teens during the trip. These tours can be accredited by the Camping Association. When selecting a tour, make sure to research the company through the Better Business Bureau and by asking for recommendations from friends or family.

Collaborate with Public/Private School: If your school doesn’t currently offer a travel program, you could ask about partnering with a travel company.

Religious: Local religious organizations may offer a teen travel experience during the summer. Sometimes these trips are community service orientated, while other times they may be educational. You could check with your local place of worship to find out if they offer a teen tour. 


The costs of these tours aren’t cheap ranging from $3k-$10k and up. Usually, the cost includes all meals, transportation during the trip (not to the first location), admission and staff guides. You might be able to receive financial aid or a scholarship through Geography of Hope. You may also be able to travel for free if you are willing to volunteer. There is a tuition-free program you can apply to for girls aged 15-17 called Inspiring Girls Expeditions.

Is a teen tour right for your family?

Traveling requires a certain type of personality, usually someone who enjoys adventure and is able to be patient when necessary. My daughter’s twin brother had zero interest in attending the California trip and didn’t even show me the paperwork. His personality is vastly different from his twin’s, so I can understand why he doesn’t want to go. 

If you can afford the high cost or qualify for a scholarship, then a teen tour can be a unique learning experience for your child. I visited various places and met people from diverse backgrounds. And even though I will miss her terribly, I’m sure my daughter will have an incredible trip.